A lazy Sunday afternoon out in the country was how it was sold to me. Get the train out to a village near to where Gergely grew up, I could get a little insight into why he is like he is, or something. Any way far more importantly we were taking his mum out to Lunch.
Tata is about an hour out of Budapest by train, it's a nice journey, you leave the outskirts of Budapest pretty quickly and from then on it's gently rolling hills which at the tail end of summer are all a lush verdant green.
Arriving at the village we stopped just outside of quite a marvellous ruined castle. Originally built in Roman times, but was renovated in the Renaissance style by Matthias 1st. The castle is surrounded on 3 sides by a large moat and a lake, with a steep rocky side on the other, so it was a major fortification, holding out in most cases until the Habsbergs torched it in retaliation for Rakocsi Ferenc's revolution.
Wandering through the ruins brings you to the edge of the lake. As the lake is drained into the Danube it is surrounded by canals and streams which flow away like strands on a spiders web, many of these were used by mill houses, so the lake is adorned with many examples of these beautiful buildings.
The restaurant we were visiting was a surprise, Norbert the manager has spent many years around the Hungarian wine scene, opening Budapest's first serious wine bar before moving on to be an F and B manager at a 5* hotel. Platan is genuinely his baby. There is a seriously equipped kitchen, restaurant, heated terrace, pattiserie and lakeside seating area. In the summer they have live jazz and poetry readings, there is a floating stage that they moor just off the edge of the lake, and I imagine that spending an evening with a couple of glasses of Palinka would be quite something.
They're approach to their food is as about as on message as you could get (barring lots of small plats, they tried this and found that the large number of tourists didn't like it, so it's proper portions all the way). Everything is seasonal, when we were there there was a wild mushroom menu that will run until the chef feels that their getting a bit dry and wintry, then there will be the fishing festival when the lake is partially drained and the carp are caught.
They have a private 8ha area of woodland where they can source their game, including proper wild boars. They have a small private lake where they breed fish other than carp, and just to add icing to the cake they have a cattle breeding program that now after one and a half years of setting up provides them with a 3 week old milk fed veal calf every fortnight. Now I've spoken to chefs who are serious about sourcing their ingredients but this is one step better.
As I was feeling a little bit delicate I opted for the chicken broth with vegetables and quail eggs and it was exactly what I needed, excellent depth of flavour and full of very fresh baby veg, my only slight quibble was that the egg was hard boiled, where I prefer them to be dropped into the broth raw so they cook very slowly and are all lovely and runny.
This was followed by 'friable' rump of beef, I initially though that this was a spelling mistake as friability is something I associate with rocks and soil science, but it was effectively pot au feu, again beautifully done, served with a reduced version of the cooking liquor, lots (lots) of vegetables and several large crouts smothered in marrow.
The cooking was all excellent and done with a firm grasp of traditional dishes, but rather like modern bistro takes on French classics there was a focus to them that is probably lacking from the originals.
We finished with a summer plum cake, coffee and a raspberry palinka on the terrace gazing contentedly out towards the lake.
After lunch we went for a stroll round the lake taking in such bizarre sights as the gate of lovers padlocks, apparently when couple get engaged they lock a padlock onto the gate and throw the key into the lake as a sign of devotion. I guess it beats carving a heart and initials into a tree.
Then we arrived at the English Gardens, built by the Esterhazy family who had been very well travelled and was inspired by the landscaped gardens of the English aristocracy, taking in another small lake with grottoes and a lovely fake ruin, apparently they bought up a load of old ruins including that of an old abbey and had them moved into the garden to add character. A nice little touch.